Don't get ripped off by the mechanic

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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PLANO, Texas - A recent car care council survey found that nine out of 10 women believe they are treated differently than men, when it comes to car repairs.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65 percent of the people who take their cars to repair shops are women, but only 1 percent of the people who work on cars are women.  Now that is all changing.

When Peggy Smiley brought her Hyundai Santa Fe into the dealer, she immediately felt she could trust Erin Lloyd, her service manager, partially because she's a woman.

"It still tends to be a man's world, and you know," Smiley said. "I think her being here creates a sense that she will understand, have a little bit of empathy, and try to make me feel comfortable."

Like most women, Smiley doesn't want to get ripped off.  A study at Northwestern University confirms that women are often charged higher prices for auto repairs at independent repair shops, especially when they display no knowledge about cars. 

"To me it's about building up trust," customer Ellen Auer explained. 

Lloyd learned how to be a technician in the Air Force, something she never tried before.

"So I learned that you can do anything if you put your mind to something," Lloyd said.

The military is also where she learned about teamwork, confidence, respect, determination, and how to get along with men. 

"Customers want to see diversity," Lloyd explained. "It makes them more comfortable when they come in."

So, how do women avoid getting ripped off on auto repairs? 

You can diagnose what's wrong before you hit the shop by using the CarMD tool. For $99, you just plug the hand-held device into your car; it reads the car's computer codes and will give you a full report of what the problem codes indicate as well as an average cost to fix it.

Also, check out to learn about typical repairs and questions to ask the mechanic. When you get to the mechanics, use all your senses to describe the problem.  For example, say you feel the car pulling to the left, particularly at speeds faster than 40 miles per hour. 

It's also a good idea is to find a place you trust and stick with it.

"I want them to feel comfortable and know that it's not about the car, it's about them," Lloyd said.

Not only are women getting technical training in the military, but technical schools that offer auto repairs are seeing more and more women enter the automotive field, which is projected to rise significantly over the next several years.

How to Spot a Bad Mechanic

There are a few professions known for having some less-than-honest practices. Unfortunately, mechanics are one of these professions. If you get into an accident, or your car breaks down, you're going to need a good mechanic that will treat you fairly and honestly. Let's take a look at the ways to spot a bad mechanic.

  • Dusty cars or for sale sign on cars on lot.
  • If the mechanic's garage is the garage at his house.  It is sometimes a tempting bargain, but the mechanic might be self-taught and doesn't have diagnostic equipment to do the job right.  There are most likely no guarantees if your car breaks down.
  • Their use of mechanical terms does not equate to expertise.  Ask them to explain each part and its function.
  • Beware if they tell you the car is unsafe and you need to repair it right away.
  • All mechanics should be willing to give you your old parts back.  Always request for them back, this alerts the repairman you're watching and you won't be ripped off.
  • No guarantee from the mechanic is usually a sign they use refurbished or used parts.
  • Look over the bill very carefully. If you see something wrong, the mechanic should be willing to explain.

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